YOUTH IN FOOD SYSTEMS
1 in 8 working individuals in Canada work in the agri-food sector.
The average age of farmers in Canada is now 55.
An increasing number of emerging food systems careers require advanced skills and education.
The primary goal of our program is to inspire high school age youth to explore potential career options in the agriculture and food sectors. As it stands, most of today’s young people are largely unaware of how food is produced, processed, distributed, and disposed of. Recognizing that the average Canadian farmer is now 55 to 59 years old, and that 1 in 8 people in Canada hold jobs in food-related industries, we believe that youth must be encouraged to see viability in food careers, and in the vast potential for increasing the sustainability of our food systems through these career options.
Did you know that there are hundreds of careers that directly or indirectly influence our food systems in Canada? Or that an increasing number of emerging food systems careers require advanced skills or education?
For most high school students, the answer is no.
So we asked:
How can a young person pursue an agricultural or food sector career without sufficient knowledge of what’s out there, and without having anyone in this sector to turn to for information?
Our program consists of multiple components that work separately and in conjunction with one another to achieve this. Here are the highlights:
Inquiry and Communications: The Youth Blog
Supported by our staff, youth bloggers undertake research on food systems-related topics from seed-starting to climate adaptation, and develop resources for communicating what they have learned with their peers. Our youth blog updates three times per week with new articles written, edited, and published by our youth volunteers.
Career Learning and Mentorship: Youth in Food Systems Interview Series
This interview series connects youth with people working in food systems careers to learn about paths for education and employment, and share what they have learned in a video interview series on YouTube. Our staff help youth explore their interests in future food systems work, and connect them with mentors working with these careers. Youth develop interview questions, connect with mentors for interviews, and assist in the editing and promoting of the recorded interviews.
Hands-On Practice and Learning: Garden Education Workshops
Through our summer maintenance programs, we have partnered with local schools in Waterloo Region to help keep gardens growing when schools aren’t in session. Our summer garden education workshops take these maintenance sessions as opportunities to host regular live, garden-based learning opportunities led by educators such as Seeds of Diversity’s horticulture experts. These workshops include topics such as seed starting, soil health, and food security, and provide hands-on opportunities to learn about growing and harvesting food.
Putting Learning into Action: Youth Food Market
Our Youth Food Market program recruits volunteers to help plan and organize an in-person market stand. Our volunteer teams plan and plant market gardens in plots shared by our school partners, source produce from local growers and food businesses, harvest seasonal produce, research pricing, and promote and staff a Saturday market stall, with proceeds going to further youth programming. Through these programs, youth collaborate online and in-person to learn agricultural science and practice, while gaining valuable practical experience in communication, planning, and business.
Are you a high school student looking for ways to get involved? All of our Youth in Food Systems programming works within a youth-led model, meaning there are a number of year-round remote and seasonal in-person opportunities for involvement. Plus, you can get some community service hours by volunteering with us!
From April to October 2021, we have directly engaged 104 youth volunteers across southern Ontario in the program. Here’s some of what they had to say about their work with us:
Volunteering at Waterloo Region School Food Gardens these past two months has significantly impacted my life [..] Through my role as a Social Media Content Creator, I have made posts about food literacy, gardening tips, and environmentally friendly actions with my peers, and I have, at the same time, educated myself and others to take better care of the world around us. I feel that the effort that Waterloo Region School Food Gardens is putting in to encourage environmental sustainability is making an extremely positive impact on all volunteers and school associated, and this should be continued in hopes of a brighter future.
If you are a person interested in making a monetary contribution, you can do so below. We appreciate the support in helping to ensure that our program can continue to operate.